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3.0 out of 5 stars There Are Better Overviews Out There, 29 Sep 2013
By 
JH "hobbs_tx" (Houston, TX United States) - See all my reviews
Marshall's World War I is a decent overview. I compare this to other overviews of the subject I have read and feel there are better overviews out there. As a whole, the overall coverage of the conflict is good and comparable to other works. I found the level of detail reasonable for this type of overview. There are parts of the story that Marshall does better than others. However, I found that Marshall provides a lot of commentary in many instances instead of relating the whole story. His lack of references or bibliography makes me question the accuracy of the account when I saw differences from other authors. The maps are also hard to read (mine is black and white). They are too dark and frequently cross pages so you can't see important areas of the map. Marshal also uses an American colloquial style that has not aged well. Many of his metaphors either did not make sense or I could see them be confusing to others. I would recommend John Keegan's The First World War and Peter Hart's The Great War: 1914-1918 instead for a better description of events.

Highlights from Marshall's account:

* Marshall starts with a good introduction in how World War I ignited. He provides details in to the spark (the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to Austrian Hungarian Empire). Even discussing why he was there and the relationship with the man and the people and his family. This is the most detail I have seen except for a documentary film on the subject. But before he continues, Marshall explores what put the world in this mess to begin with. He discusses highlights from the 40 year period leading up to the war including how the alliances between the major powers were inked. I would also recommend Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August which covers this period and the first month of the war well (except for limited detail about the actual assassination).

* His coverage of the American experience in World War I is more detailed than I have read in other overviews. This is not surprising from an American author, but as an American, I appreciated the better understanding of the actual American impact.

* Marshall provides a good explanation of the ending of the war. He examines what brought Germany to the table. He also looks at the peace negotiations describing the vastly differing views of Woodrow Wilson and the other allies. He identifies how the settlement established the building blocks for World War II. But, he does this more specifically than other accounts that assume you have knowledge of the terms of the agreements or the initial events of World War II.

Some examples of issues I had with the book:

* Marshall does not provide a good explanation of the war plans of the major powers.

* He condemns the German Schlieffen Plan without explaining it.

* Marshall is critical of Lanrezac, complaining about his pull back from the Sambre and failure to inform the British. And then again critical of him for retreating from the German 2nd and 3rd armies. When in fact the Lanrezac's turning on his left flank to face North was the only thing that prevented the 5th army from being destroyed and the French left flank from being rolled up.

* He pounces on the Austrian dual offensives without explaining why they did it. Its ally Germany was pushing for an offensive against Russia and Austria had provided assurances of their assistance.

* Marshall paints the German General Prittwitz as the one who came up with the idea to disengage and attack Russian 2nd army at Tannenberg. Prittwitz did not only talk to Hoffman before his first call to OHL to advise of his plan to retreat. He called a second time to OHL to tell them he could not reposition his forces and needed reinforcements.
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